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No jobs recession for people aged over 50, says CIPD

Women have not performed well in traditionally feminised occupations.

Women aged 50-64, and men and women aged 65 and above have registered an increase in both the number in work and employment rates since the start of the jobs recession, according to a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) that is based on official statistics from the Labour Force Survey.

There are 271,000 (8 per cent) more women aged 50-64 in the labour market than at the start of the recession and 200,000 (6.2 per cent) more in work, said CIPD.

The report, titled Age, gender and the jobs recession, finds that women have performed better in managerial, professional and technical occupations but have done much less well in traditionally feminised occupations.

However, the number of women in administrative, secretarial, sales and customer services roles has fallen by almost 400,000 since the start of the recession that began in 2008. Somewhat surprisingly, the number of men performing this kind of semi-skilled white collar work has increased.

Substantial rise of 172,000 (16.3 per cent) was seen in the number of women in self-employment, while the number of full time women employees has fallen by 220,000 (3 per cent), partly offset by a small rise in part-time employment (up 44,000 or 0.9 per cent).

John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the CIPD, said:

When it comes to work, older people have clearly fared better than young people during the jobs recession. But what’s also clear is that older women have done best of all.  While a combination of population ageing and fewer people wanting to retire early, either for financial reasons or because of a broader desire to prolong their working lives, is boosting the older workforce, it is older women that are getting most of the available jobs.

Just why this is happening requires further examination, though with the modern generation of 50 something women more likely to view Madonna than Grandma Grey as a role model, the economically active older woman is well on course to be ever more prominent in British workplaces in the coming years.

However, the relatively good outcome for older women during the recession is no cause for complacency about the need to continually stress the business case for an even more age diverse workforce as the economy starts to recover, especially with so much public policy action understandably focused on cutting youth unemployment. Simplistic talk about older people staying in jobs at the expense of the young must not be allowed to put a brake on progress toward nudging employers to do even better in coping with demographic change. An ageing workforce presents both challenges and opportunities for employers, who at some point in the not too distant future will struggle to fill vacancies unless they recruit and retain older workers, women and men, in even far greater numbers.

While policy measures such as the removal of the Default Retirement Age in October 2011 are helping to maintain progress, lingering opposition to that positive move demonstrates just how difficult it can be to change the business mindset. It’s vital therefore that the relative fortunes of old and young people during the jobs recession is used to stimulate discussion about how best to improve employment prospects overall, so as to avoid pointless and unnecessary talk of an intergenerational jobs war.